Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. explores the love/hate relationship it has with competitors and a fast-food world of processed food gone wild in an animated short film that debuted Wednesday.
The move is the latest in a series of marketing efforts designed to help guests move past the foodborne illness crisis that rocked the Denver-based chain last year and back to the brand’s core message of serving simply prepared dishes made with wholesome ingredients.
The film, dubbed “A Love Story,” spotlights the three-month-long summer rewards program Chipotle launched last week. Posted on the chain’s website and other online outlets, the video follows the earlier animated films “Back to the Start” in 2011, about a farmer’s move from industrial giant to small, sustainable farm, and “The Scarecrow” in 2013, which skewered overly processed food.
“A Love Story” tells the story of two young entrepreneurs, Ivan and Evie, and their escalating rivalry that leads them from sidewalk juice stands to the competing fast-food empires Lemon Land and Mister Orange.
The film takes jabs at a fast-food industry fueled by “endless menu items” priced at 99 cents, like a “Big Bucket of Bacon Lemon Balls,” which an asterisk notes has no real bacon, and “Queso Pumped Shrimp Clusters with Orange sauce.” The restaurants offer drive thrus and breakfast all day, and charts show how the sharp increase in number of menu items contrasts with the steady decline in ingredient costs.
In the end, Evie notices how terrible her own food tastes and wanders into the kitchen, which somehow without her knowledge has become an automated nightmare-scape producing “sparkle flavor tacos” — no doubt a dig at Taco Bell — made in “preserve-o-matics” and microwave auto heaters with “sparkle taste boosters.”
Horrified, Evie is expelled as an intruder, only to find Ivan has had a similar crisis of conscience. Finally giving in to their lifelong love, the two find happiness returning to their roots with a small restaurant and food truck serving fresh fruits and vegetables — and tacos, of course, made with real lemon and orange juice and a presumed sprinkle of cilantro, not sparkles.
Created by Passion Pictures with director Saschka Unseld, the short film is made all the more heart warming with music by Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James singing a remake of the 1999 Backstreet Boys song “I Want It That Way.” The song will be available for streaming on Spotify, Pandora and SoundCloud.
Mark Shambura, Chipotle’s director of brand marketing, said in a statement that the film aims to get people talking and thinking about how food is made.
“We are changing the way people think about and eat fast food,” he said. “That starts with using excellent ingredients and preparing those ingredients using classic cooking techniques. ‘A Love Story’ illustrates how competition propelled these two once-simple concepts to become something neither of their founders envisioned — reliant on limited-time offers, vast menus and heavily processed food.”
The film debuted the day after Chipotle’s top marketing executive Mark Crumpacker was arraigned on seven charges of drug possession after being arrested in connection with a cocaine ring bust in New York City.